Connecticut bill aims to create RPS for RNG

By Erin Voegele | March 13, 2018

Pending legislation in Connecticut aims to create a renewable portfolio standard (RPS) requiring gas companies to ensure that renewable natural gas (RNG) comprises at least 5 percent of their output by 2033.

According to the legislation, the requirement would begin at 2 percent RNG in 2019, increasing by 0.2 percent annually and reaching 5 percent by 2033.

In addition to creating a RPS or RNG in the natural gas supply, the bill also requires the Connecticut Public Utilities Regulatory Authority to establish a quality standard for RNG, and would require the procurement of additional electricity from a the Plainfield Renewable Energy biomass power plant by electric distribution companies.

The bill, S.B. 337, was introduced and referred to the Joint Committee on Energy and Technology on March 1. A public hearing on the legislation was held March 6.

Representatives of Greenleaf Power, which owns the Plainfield plant, and Quantum Biopower, which owns an anaerobic digester, were among those to offer testimony at the hearing.

In his testimony, Brian Paganini, vice president and management director of Quantum Biopower, said his company’s interest in producing RNG rather than electricity was piqued as it learned more about energy production via the Southington project development process. “In Southington, we have a gas line near the site,” he said. We also have waste trucks driving in and out each day. It just never seemed efficient for us to produce electricity. But that’s where the incentives were and, we needed to walk before we could run.”

Paganini called RNG a more flexible fuel, noting it can be used for pipeline injection, as a vehicle fuel, or to produce electricity. He said cost is the biggest factor currently limiting RNG production.

“The additional cost for a facility like Southington to produce pipeline quality RNG versus electricity is approximately $1 million,” Paganini said. “Given that the primary hurdles for digesters to overcome are on the solid waste side, little serious thought has been given to making the more up-front, capital-intensive energy product. But that thinking may be short sighted.”

Paganini cited a report Quantum commissioned from the Gas Technology Institute last year to identify the universe of potential renewable gas in Connecticut, the benefits of RNG and address common concerns about gas quality and safety. That report found that RNG could displace 450,000 tons of CO2, generate 42 MW of electricity, displace 29 million gallons of gasoline or 27 million gallons of diesel, fuel 7,000 heave duty vehicles or 40,000 passenger vehicles, power 40,000 homes and generate 300 skilled jobs.

“Quantum believes RNG is a logical next frontier on the way to Connecticut’s renewable energy future,” Paganini said. “How we get there can take any number of paths. Quantum appreciates and supports SB 337’s proposed, RPS-inspired utility purchasing requirement structure. Both heating oil and electricity have renewable requirements and have successfully incentivized renewable sources as a result. The bill contains a proven, solid program structure to begin discussions about this valuable, untapped resource.”

In his testimony, Charles Abbott, chief operating officer of Greenleaf Power, discussed the benefits of his company’s 37.5 MW Plainfield Renewable Energy biomass power plant, noting the facility was built as a result of a state-sponsored procurement for baseload Class I renewable energy through the Project 150 program. The plant began operations in 2013 and currently has 10 years remaining on its 15-year power purchase agreement with Eversource.

Abbott explained that at the time of the Project 150 decision, two other biomass plants were also chosen, including one that was in close proximity to PRE. To ensure fuel availability, Abbot said PRE and the other nearby plant had its contracted award prorated down. Since then, the second biomass plant’s contract was cancelled by PURA. As a result, Abbott said that the underlying cause for the reduction in RPE’s purchased output has been removed. According to Abbott, PRE is requesting that its 7.5 MW of uncontracted, baseload, Class I electricity be eligible for purchase through a change to the Project 150 statute, as proposed in the legislation, should no other procurement opportunities be authorized by the legislature or issued by the department this year for which the plant would be eligible.

Additional information, including full copies of the bill and written testimony, is available on the Connecticut General Assembly website